Song Exploder is a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. Each episode features an artist discussing a song of theirs, breaking down the sounds and ideas that went into the writing and recording. Hosted and produced by Hrishikesh Hirway.
Min Jin Lee is the author of the best-selling novel Pachinko. She?s a Guggenheim Fellow, and the recipient of South Korea's Manhae Grand Prize for Literature. In Pachinko, she tells a sweeping, multi-generational story of a Korean family that moves to Japan. Pachinko is an international best-seller, named one of the best books of 2017 by the New York Times, the BBC, the New York Public Library, and more. In 2022, it was adapted into an Emmy-nominated television series on Apple TV+. In this episode, Min talks to Book Exploder host Susan Orlean about a passage from Chapter 4 of Pachinko: a pivotal scene that takes place in June 1932, in a small fishing village in Korea.
For more, visit bookexploder.com/episodes/min-jin-lee.
Kae Tempest is a songwriter, rapper, an award-winning poet, and best-selling novelist. They?ve been nominated for the UK?s Mercury Prize and Brit Award. Their most recent album is The Line is a Curve, which came out earlier this year. It was executive produced by legendary producer Rick Rubin. Kae made the album alongside their longtime collaborator, producer Dan Carey. I talked to Kae and Dan talk about the song "Move." You?ll hear the first demo they made, which sounds almost nothing like the final version. In this episode, they talk about how the track evolved over several sessions, months apart. Kae?s own life changed a lot during that period. They came out as trans and non-binary in 2020, and this song, in part, helps tell the story of what they were going through.
Introducing a new miniseries: Book Exploder, where authors break down a passage from one of their books, and discuss the creative process that went into writing it. Every other week, in between episodes of Song Exploder, you?ll hear from a new author, in conversation with host Susan Orlean. But for this first episode of the series, Susan is interviewed by Hrishikesh Hirway about her own book, The Library Book.
Susan Orlean is the author of twelve books, including The Orchid Thief (which inspired the Oscar-award winning film Adaptation), a staff writer at The New Yorker?. Published in 2018, The Library Book became a New York Times Best Seller and named a Washington Post Top 10 Book of the Year. The book tells the story of the 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Central Library. In this inaugural episode, Susan discusses a passage from her book, which details the blaze itself.
For more, visit bookexploder.com/episodes/susan-orlean.
Sudan Archives is a singer, songwriter, producer, and violinist. She grew up in Cincinnati before moving to LA. Her music has been called "viscerally gorgeous" by The Guardian, and "stunning" by Pitchfork, who gave her in ?Best New Music.? This year, she?s releasing her second album, and one of the tracks on it is "Selfish Soul." She told me the idea for this song started when she asked her boyfriend, James (who is the rapper Nocando) to shave her head. Cutting off her hair made her reflect on her whole hair story, from experiences she had as a kid, to the cultural and racial issues that have historically surrounded Black women's hair.
For more, visit songexploder.net/sudan-archives.
Maia from mxmtoon released her first EP in 2018. She was 18 years old, recorded it in her bedroom, and self-released it. It went on to be streamed over 100 million times. This year, she put out her second album, Rising, and in this episode, she breaks down her song "Mona Lisa." She told me about how different it is from the songs she used to write when she was teenager. And how she found something authentic and honest by connecting with a part of herself from even earlier in her life.
For more, visit songexploder.net/mxmtoon.
Monica Martin is a singer and songwriter based in Los Angeles. Before that, she was based in Madison, Wisconsin, where she was part of the indie rock band Phox. She?s been a featured guest vocalist on songs by James Blake and Vulfpeck. In this episode, Monica breaks down her song ?Go Easy, Kid,? along with the tracks?s producer, Khushi. She talks about making a song that?s in part about how hard it can be to make a song. And more generally, how hard it can be to let go of things we get hung up on.
For more, visit songexploder.net/monica-martin
Maren Morris is a Grammy-winning, multi-platinum artist. She?s also won multiple country music awards, including CMAs for Female Vocalist of the Year, and Single of the Year in 2020, but her feelings about the country music industry are kind of complicated, as she discusses in this episode. She breaks down her song "Humble Quest," which is the title track from her third album. It was produced by Greg Kurstin, who?s won the Producer of the Year Grammy more than once. The album came out in March, and hit #2 on Billboard country chart. But before "Humble Quest" was a title, Maren had to figure out what the words meant to her, and that?s where the song began.
To learn more, visit songexploder.net/maren-morris
Rick Astley is a singer and songwriter from England, whose debut single, "Never Gonna Give You Up," became an international smash hit. The song came out in July 1987 and won the BRIT Award for ?British Single of the Year.? It hit number one in 25 countries, and Rick Astley was nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist. And then, 20 years after the song came out, it became a new kind of phenomenon, when the meme Rickrolling was born. Last year, the music video for "Never Gonna Give You Up" passed a billion streams on YouTube. The song was written and produced by the production team Stock Aitken Waterman, who became hitmakers for artists like Kylie Minogue, Dead or Alive, and others. For this episode, I spoke to Rick Astley, and songwriter and producer Mike Stock, and the two of them tell the story of how "Never Gonna Give You Up" was made.
For more, visit songexploder.net/rick-astley.
Kevin Morby is a singer and songwriter based in Kansas City. He?s put out seven albums since 2013, including his most recent one, This is a Photograph, which just came out last week. For this episode, I talked to Kevin about the title track from This is a Photograph. It?s a story about his family, the pandemic, and memories of times that have happened???and times that haven?t happened yet.
To learn more, visit songexploder.net/kevin-morby
Arooj Aftab is a singer and composer based in Brooklyn. She grew up in Saudi Arabia, but her family is from Pakistan. And earlier this year, she made history by becoming the first Pakistani artist to win a Grammy. Her song, ?Mohabbat" won the Best Global Music Performance Grammy, and she was nominated for Best New Artist. "Mohabbat" was first released on her 2021 album, Vulture Prince, but it?s been a part of Arooj?s life for a long time?. In this episode, she tells the story of how the song was first born, and how it lived with her and evolved over the years before she finally recorded it.
For more, visit songexploder.net/arooj-aftab
This week, I want to introduce you to another podcast that I make, called Partners. It?s a show about partnerships that was born out of Song Exploder. I?ve made a bunch of episodes with bandmates, or co-writers, or an artist and a producer who worked together, all these stories where the songs were the result of a really special collaboration. And I was always fascinated by the origins of the relationship, as part of the story of the origin of the song. When you hear those stories, it becomes clear that what these people made together is something that reflects not just each of them individually, but this other, unique entity that only exists where the two of them meet. And I wanted to make a podcast that was entirely about that idea. And I feel like all successful long-term partnerships could be thought of as love stories. It?s a matter of luck, and being in the right place at the right time, and also work and patience, plus some ineffable magic spark. So that?s what Partners is about. The first season came out in 2020, and the second season just began last week. You can subscribe to the show at partners.show, or wherever you get your podcasts, etc, but I also just want to play you this episode from season 2, with two music greats, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, who have made two incredible albums together.
For more, visit songexploder.net/partners.
Peaches is a musician, producer, and performance artist. She?s released six albums and in 2015, she won the Polaris Heritage Music Prize. Her fourth album, Impeach My Bush, came out in 2006, and features the song ?Boys Wanna Be Her.? She produced the song with Mickey Petralia, whose other production credits include Beck, Ladytron, and Flight of the Conchords. ?Boys Wanna Be Her? has become kind of an anthem since it came out. It?s been used in a lot of film and tv. To name just a couple examples, it was in the season 2 finale of ?The Boys,? and it?s the theme song for ?Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.? In this episode, Peaches tells the story of what inspired the song originally, and how she made it, with a few thoughts from Mickey Petralia.
Peaches will be on tour throughout 2022. Visit teachesofpeaches.com for tickets.
For more info, visit songexploder.net/peaches
Steve Reich is a legendary composer who was one of the pioneers of minimalism. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music, and the New York Times called him ?America?s greatest living composer.? I had the incredible honor of getting to speak to Steve Reich about his piece Different Trains, written for string quartet and pre-recorded performance tape. It was first performed in 1988 by the Kronos Quartet, and they released a recording of it in 1989, which won the Grammy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition. Different Trains is a piece about World War II and the Holocaust. It?s made up of three movements: America ? Before the War, Europe ? During the War, and After the War. For this episode, Steve Reich breaks down the first movement, which was inspired by his own childhood experiences.
For more, visit songexploder.net/steve-reich
This week, I want to revisit one of my favorite episodes of Song Exploder, with Perfume Genius telling the story of making Slip Away. This episode originally came out in May 2017. The album the song?s from, No Shape, went on to be nominated for a Grammy, and was named one of the year?s best in lots of places. And next week, on March 16, Perfume Genius will be playing at the Song Exploder Stage at SXSW. I?m really excited to be putting on a showcase at the festival, and the other artists playing will be Kimbra, Sarah Kinsley, Fly Anakin, and Jenny Owen Youngs. For more information about the show: songexploder.net/sxsw
Mike Hadreas has been making music under the name Perfume Genius since 2008. In May 2017, he put out his fourth album, No Shape to widespread critical acclaim. In this episode, Mike breaks down the song Slip Away. I also spoke with producer Blake Mills, who also plays on the track, and recording engineer Shawn Everett about the unusual way the song was recorded.
For more, visit songexploder.net/perfume-genius
Sarah Kinsley is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. Her most recent release is an EP called The King, which came out in 2021. When she made it, she was in college? in New York??and actually, at the moment, she still is. But the title track on The King was written at a time when the pandemic had shut things down, and she was back in Connecticut, living with her parents. In this episode, Sarah tells the story of demo?ing the song in her childhood bedroom, then recording it in the studio with producer Jake Aron, before it went on to become a hit with over twenty millions streams online. Sarah?s performing at the Song Exploder show at SXSW on March 16, along with Perfume Genius, Kimbra, and more. Hope to see you there.
For more visit, songexploder.net/sarah-kinsley
Brandi Carlile is a singer and songwriter from Washington State. She's released seven albums and won six Grammys. Her most recent album is In These Silent Days, which debuted at number one on Billboard?s folk and rock album charts. It was named one of the best albums of 2021 by Rolling Stone, Stereogum, and more. It was produced by her longtime collaborators Dave Cobb and Shooter Jennings. In this episode, Brandi breaks down her song "You and Me on the Rock," and how it was influenced by her wife, by their home, and by Joni Mitchell.
To learn more, visit songexploder.net/brandi-carlile.
The band Franz Ferdinand formed in 2002, in Glasgow, Scotland. They?ve won the Mercury Prize and two BRIT Awards, they have five Grammy nominations, and they?ve sold millions of albums. One of their first singles is this song, ?Take Me Out,? and it?s also their biggest hit. In this episode, singer and guitarist Alex Kapranos tells the story of how he and his bandmates made the song, from the original home demo to the final studio recording.
To learn more, visit songexploder.net/franz-ferdinand.
Joy Oladokun is a singer and songwriter from Arizona, now based in Nashville, who?s been releasing music since 2015. Last year, she was named an Artist to Watch by NPR, Spotify, and Amazon, and she was #1 on Vogue?s list of New LGBTQ Artists To Listen to Now. She put out her third album, In Defense of My Own Happiness, in June 2021. It includes the song ?Look Up.? For that track, she worked with Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer Dave Bassett, and while they were working and talking, they recorded a couple long voice memos. Joy sent me those voice memos, and in this episode, in addition to the stems of the recording, and Joy?s story about how it was made, you?ll hear the actual moments in late 2019 when the song was first coming together. Joy explains how the song was inspired by the different, and maybe opposite ways that she and her partner see the world.
For more, visit songexploder.net/joy-oladokun.
Tim Burton?s The Nightmare Before Christmas came out in 1993. It?s a stop-motion animated musical, with music by legendary composer Danny Elfman. He?s won Emmys, a Grammy, and been nominated for four Oscars. His work includes the music for Tim Burton?s Batman films, Sam Raimi?s Spider-Man films, Good Will Hunting, and the theme to The Simpsons. From 1979 to 1995, he was the singer and songwriter in the band Oingo Boingo.
The Nightmare Before Christmas takes place in a world where different holidays all have their own realm. And the story is about Jack Skellington, the leader of Halloweentown, a place where it?s always Halloween, and Halloween is all they know, and Jack has grown a little tired of it. But then, Jack discovers a portal to Christmastown, with snow and Santa and all things Christmas inhabiting it. He's never seen anything like it, and the discovery changes everything. The song "What?s This?" takes place in that moment of discovery. In this episode, Danny Elfman tells the story of how it all came together, and how writing and singing this song for Jack Skellington ended up profoundly connecting to his own life.
For more, visit songexploder.net/danny-elfman.
Halsey is an award-winning singer and songwriter from New Jersey. She's been nominated for two Grammys, and sold over a million records. In August, she released her fourth album, If I Can't Have Love, I Want Power, which was produced by the Grammy and Oscar winning duo of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross from Nine Inch Nails. Halsey wrote one of the songs on the album, "You Asked for This," with Greg Kurstin, who?s won 8 Grammys himself, including Producer of the Year. In this episode, Halsey tells the story of making this song while pregnant with her son, and how that shaped the lyrics and the music.
For more, visit songexploder.net/halsey.
The movie Dune was released on October 21. It's the most recent adaptation of Frank Herbert's epic science fiction novel from 1965. The film was directed by Denis Villeneuve, and the score was written by Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer. Hans Zimmer has scored over 200 films, been nominated for Oscars eleven times. He and Denis Villeneuve first worked together on the film Blade Runner 2049. Dune tells the story of the Atreides family as they relocate from their home world to the desert planet Arrakis. When Hans Zimmer first started working on the music, he made what he calls a "sketchbook" ? creating motifs and themes that might occur in the film. And in this episode, he takes us through the first sketch he did for Dune. It?s called "Paul's Dream."
For more, visit songexploder.net/dune.
The War on Drugs is a band from Philadelphia who formed in 2005. They won the Grammy for Best Rock Album in 2018. This year, they put out their fifth album, I Don?t Live Here Anymore. Adam Granduciel is the singer and lead guitarist in the band, and I talked to him at his recording space here in Los Angeles. In this episode, Adam breaks down the title track from I Don?t Live Here Anymore, from the original demo to the version that was hammered out after months of work. And he explains how the song was influenced by Bob Dylan and his own newborn son.
To learn more, visit songexploder.net/the-war-on-drugs.
Willow Smith is a singer and songwriter from Los Angeles. She?s also a member of one of the most famous families in the world. From a very young age, she followed in the musical footsteps of her parents, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, and released her first single when she was just ten years old. Since then, she?s released four albums, and was named one of TIME Magazine?s 100 Most influential people in the world. This year, on her most recent album, she put out this song, "Transparent Soul," which was co-written with her longtime collaborator Tyler Cole, and features Travis Barker from Blink-182 on drums. I talked to her about how her upbringing and her musical evolution from her early pop star days influenced the way she made this song.
For more, visit songexploder.net/willow
This summer, I gave a TED Talk at the TED Conference. My talk was about what you discover when you really listen. It was based on how making Song Exploder has changed the way I think about conversations and connecting with people. My talk came out today on the TED website and on the TED Talks Daily podcast, and the very nice folks at TED asked if I would also put the audio of the talk here, on Song Exploder. And I normally wouldn?t put this much of myself on here, but they asked, and like I said, they were very nice. I hope this isn?t too meta, to talk about the show, and what I get out of making it. But it also features some music, including beautiful cello played by Yo-Yo Ma, so there?s that to look forward to. Here it is, my TED Talk on what you learn when you listen closely.
To listen to my song with Yo-Yo Ma, visit https://ffm.to/betweenthereandhere.
For more, visit songexploder.net/ted.
Earlier this year, I got an amazing email?the estate of John Lennon said that they have a treasure trove of audio material from his life, and they were wondering if I would be interested in making an episode around the song ?God,? from John Lennon?s first solo album. I?ve never tried making a posthumous episode before, because hearing directly from the artist is at the heart of Song Exploder. But with all the interview archives that they have of him speaking, plus all the isolated tracks from the recordings, and the original demo, it actually seemed possible. So this is a very different and special episode of the show.
In September 1969, John Lennon told the rest of the Beatles that he was leaving the group. Their breakup was announced publicly in April 1970, and that December, John Lennon released his first solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. The Plastic Ono band was the name for a rotating group of musicians that John and his wife, the artist Yoko Ono, had put together. For the making of ?God,? the band included Ringo Starr on drums, Billy Preston on piano, and Klaus Voormann on bass. I got to interview Klaus Voormann about his experiences making this track, and in this episode, you?ll hear from him along with the archival interviews with John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and Billy Preston. You?ll also hear the original demo for ?God,? and outtakes from the recording sessions at Abbey Road studios. They recorded the final version of this song on October 9, 1970?John Lennon?s 30th birthday.
Archival audio sources:
- John Lennon's audio was excerpted from an interview with Rolling Stone's Jann S. Wenner, recorded on December 8, 1970. The full interview can be found here. With grateful thanks to Jann S. Wenner for his permission and collaboration.
- Arthur Janov and Billy Preston's quotes came from interviews conducted in 2005 owned by Yoko Ono Lennon. With grateful thanks to Yoko Ono Lennon for her permission and collaboration.
- Ringo Starr's audio came from the 2008 Classic Albums documentary on John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band, directed by Matthew Longfellow. With grateful thanks to Ringo Starr for his permission and collaboration.
For more, visit songexploder.net/john-lennon.
Lucy Dacus is a singer and songwriter from Richmond, Virginia. She put out her first album in 2016, and in 2018 she formed the band boygenius with Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers. In June 2021, she released her third album, Home Video, which includes the song "Thumbs." The first time I heard it, I knew I wanted to ask Lucy about how and why she made it. After some COVID testing, we spoke in person here in Los Angeles. And she told me the story of how "Thumbs" took months and months to get right.
For more, visit songexploder.net/lucy-dacus.
Mustafa is a singer, songwriter, and poet from Toronto. He gained national recognition in Canada for his poetry. in 2016, he served on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?s Youth Advisory Council. Later, as a songwriter, he contributed to the Grammy award-winning album Starboy by The Weeknd, and he?s written songs for Usher, Camila Cabello, and others. In May 2021, he released his own debut album, called When Smoke Rises, inspired by his experiences losing friends to inner-city violence. His album?s been critically acclaimed, and it was shortlisted for the Polaris Prize. I spoke to Mustafa about his song "Air Forces," a track he made with his longtime collaborator, Grammy-winning producer Frank Dukes, plus Swedish artist Simon on the Moon, and Jamie xx.
For more visit, songexploder.net/mustafa.
Lykke Li is a singer and songwriter from Sweden. She started releasing music in 2007, and for much of her career, she?s worked with producer Björn Yttling, who?s also a member of the Swedish band Peter Bjorn and John. Her second album, Wounded Rhymes, came out 10 years ago. It was named one of the best albums of 2011 by the New York Times, Pitchfork, the Guardian, and more, and it won the Swedish Grammy for Best Album. The song "I Follow Rivers" was the breakout hit from that album, and for this episode, Lykke and Bjorn break down how they made it, with help from co-writer Rick Nowels. I spoke to the two of them while they were at Björn?s studio, Ingrid Studios in Stockholm.
For more, visit songexploder.net/lykke-li.
Singer, songwriter, and producer James Mercer of The Shins wrote ?New Slang? when he was living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It came out as a single and then he re-recorded it for The Shins? debut album Oh, Inverted World, which came out 20 years ago, in 2001. After Garden State came out, featuring the song "New Slang," that album went gold. And the soundtrack for the movie won a Grammy. Nowadays, James Mercer lives in Portland. I spoke to him from his home studio, and he told me how The Shins actually first started as a recording project, a side project, while he was in another band called Flake Music. In this episode, James breaks down "New Slang" and looks back at how his songwriting and his early home recording skills came together to make this iconic song.
For more, visit songexploder.net/the-shins.
The song "Surrender" by Cheap Trick was released in 1978. Rolling Stone called it the ultimate 70s teen anthem, and included it in their list of the greatest songs of all time. It?s been in a bunch of movies and tv shows?including South Park, Scrubs, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, New Girl, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Cheap Trick formed in Rockford, Illinois in 1973. They?ve released 20 studio albums, they?ve sold over 20 million records, and in 2016 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Rick Nielsen is the guitarist in the band. He wrote ?Surrender,? and for this episode, I talked to him about how the song was made.
For more, visit songexploder.net/cheap-trick
The story of how the song "Deep End" came into existence and became a hit is kind of wild. One person who really didn?t see it coming is the person who created it, Fousheé. She?s a singer and songwriter from New Jersey. You might have seen her competing on The Voice in 2018. Soon after that, she got asked to make a pack of vocal samples for the music platform Splice, where users can download samples and include them in their own songs, royalty-free. Coming up, Foushée tells the story of what happened with one of those samples, and how that led to her making "Deep End." That song has now been streamed over 385 million times. Fousheé became the first Black female artist to hit the Top 10 Alternative Chart in over 30 years.
For more visit, songexploder.net/foushee.
AURORA is a singer and songwriter from Norway, who released her first EP in 2015, when she was 19 years old. It featured the song, "Runaway" and after it came out Aurora went on to win Norwegian Grammys for Best New Artist and Best Pop Artist. And she played the voice of the North Wind in Disney?s Frozen 2. This year, six years after that debut EP came out, Aurora?s song "Runaway" became a huge hit on TikTok. As of this recording, between YouTube and Spotify, "Runaway" has been streamed over half a billion times. In this episode, Aurora looks back at how the song first began, and how it evolved over time, from the demo to the final version.
For more, visit songexploder.net/aurora
Sparks are the brothers Ron and Russell Mael, a legendary duo from Los Angeles. Over the last 50 years, they?ve released 25 albums. They?ve collaborated with Giorgio Moroder and Franz Ferdinand, and they?ve influenced bands like Joy Division, Faith No More, Björk, and countless others. Director Edgar Wright, whose films include Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Baby Driver, and Scott Pilgrim vs the World, has made a documentary about the band called The Sparks Brothers. It premiered at Sundance, and comes out in theaters on Friday, June 18th. In this episode, Ron and Russell break down their hit, ?This Town Ain?t Big Enough for Both of Us," which came out in 1974, and changed their careers forever.
To learn more, visit songexploder.net/sparks
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Arlo Parks is a singer and songwriter from London. In January 2021, she released her debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams. It hit number three on the UK charts, and she won this year?s BRIT award for Breakthrough Artist. Last year, NME called her song "Black Dog" the year?s "most devastating song." In this episode, Anaïs breaks down ?Black Dog," which she made with producer Gianluca Buccellati. ("But I just call him Luca.") Here?s Arlo Parks on Song Exploder.
If you?re thinking about suicide, or if you have a friend who is, or if you just need someone to talk to right now, you can get support by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by texting HOME to 741-741, which is the Crisis Text Line. If you're outside of the U.S., check out the list of international hotlines at suicide.org.
For more about ?Black Dog,? visit songexploder.net/arlo-parks
Also: it?s the Radiotopia Spring Fundraiser! Your support helps foster independent, artist-owned, award-winning podcasts like Song Exploder. Donate today at https://on.prx.org/3wl9pWn. Thanks!
Imagine Dragons are a Grammy-winning band from Las Vegas. They?ve sold over 20 millions albums so far, and they were the most streamed band on Spotify in 2018. In March of this year, they released the song ?Follow You." Singer Dan Reynolds started the song at home, and then later, the band took it to the studio Shangri-La, to record parts of it with legendary producer Rick Rubin. In this episode, Dan breaks down the song, which tells a deeply personal story of his relationship to his wife.
For more, visit songexploder.net/imagine-dragons
Marie Ulven is a singer, songwriter, and producer from Norway, who makes music under the name girl in red. She just released her debut album in April 2021, but she already has a big fanbase and she?s gotten a lot of critical acclaim from two EPs and singles that she?s released online, including a couple that went gold. The New York Times included her work in their best songs of the year in both 2018 and 2019, and she was nominated for Best Newcomer at the Norwegian Grammys. "Do you listen to girl in red?" has also become code on TikTok, a kind of shibboleth, to ask if someone?s a lesbian. In this episode, Marie breaks down the song "Serotonin," a song that started as a video she posted to her own TikTok in the early days of lockdown in 2020. You?ll hear the original version she recorded on her own, before collaborating with Norwegian Grammy-winning producer Matias Téllez, and later, with Grammy-winning artist and producer Finneas O?Connell, in order to finish the song.
For more, visit songexploder.net/girl-in-red
Porter Robinson is a Grammy-nominated electronic artist and DJ from North Carolina. In 2014, his first album hit #1 on Billboard?s Dance chart, and he was named MTVU?s Artist of the Year, and one of the top DJs in the world???but then, he got stuck. He didn?t release his second album for seven years, until April 2021. In this episode, he talks about what he was grappling with in those intervening years, and how all of that became part of his song "Get Your Wish."
For more, visit songexploder.net/porter-robinson
Lianne La Havas is a singer and songwriter from London. She?s been nominated for a Grammy and a Brit award, and in 2020, she released her third album. In this episode, she breaks down her song "Can?t Fight," and traces its evolution???along with her own evolution ? over several years.
For more, visit songexploder.net/lianne-la-havas.
Jon Batiste is a pianist, songwriter, and composer from New Orleans. He?s been nominated for multiple Grammys, and just won the Golden Globe and got an Oscar nomination for the soundtrack to the Pixar film Soul, which he composed along with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Jon is also a recipient of the American Jazz Museum?s lifetime achievement award, and on weeknights, you can see him as the bandleader on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In March 2021, he put out his new album, We Are. But the title track from it came actually came out much earlier, last year, in June 2020. In this episode, Jon talks about how he drew from his roots, at a very personal level???and at a cultural, historical level??? and wove all of it into the song.
For more, visit songexploder.net/jon-batiste.
Glass Animals is a band from Oxford, England. They?ve released three albums since forming back in 2010. One of their biggest hits is the song "Heat Waves," which came out in June 2020. It was certified Gold in several countries, and Platinum in Australia, where it hit #1. Dave Bayley is the singer, songwriter, and producer of the band. He won the UK?s Music Producers Guild award for "Self-Producing Artist of the Year," and he?s produced songs for other artists, as well. In this episode, Dave tells the story of making "Heat Waves," over several months. First, on his own, and then later with his bandmates, Joe Seaward, Ed Irwin-Singer, and Drew MacFarlane.
For more, visit songexploder.net/glass-animals.
Sasha Sloan is a singer and songwriter based in Nashville. She put out her debut album, Only Child, last year. Before that, she?d written songs for artists like Katy Perry, John Legend, and Charli XCX, and she?s been a featured guest vocalist on songs by electronic artists Odesza and Kygo. Sasha made her album with her boyfriend, producer Henry Allen, aka King Henry, whose other production credits include songs by Beyoncé and Diplo. In this episode, Sasha, along with Henry, tells the story of making her song "Until It Happens to You."
For more, visit songexploder.net/sasha-sloan.
PJ Morton is a singer, songwriter, and producer. He?s the first artist ever to be nominated for a Grammy for the Best R&B album three years in a row. In 2020, he won the Grammy for Best R&B song for his track, "Say So," which is a duet with the singer JoJo, a platinum-selling artist in her own right. But that version of "Say So" almost didn?t come to exist. In this episode, PJ takes us through his original voice memos, the demos, and the isolated pieces of the final studio recording, as he tells the story of how the track was created, then disappeared, and then got re-created?and ended up becoming one of his biggest songs.
For more, visit songexploder.net/pj-morton.
HAIM is a band from Los Angeles, made up of the sisters Danielle, Este, and Alana Haim. They?ve released three albums, and they?ve been nominated for three Grammys. Over the years, they?ve worked extensively with Grammy-winning producer Ariel Rechtshaid. Danielle and Ariel share the emotional backstory of the song ?Summer Girl,? from HAIM?s third album, Women in Music Pt. III. In this episode, they break down their experience creating the song, along with Este Haim and the song?s co-producer and co-writer Rostam.
For more, visit songexploder.net/haim.
The legendary singer/songwriter Yusuf / Cat Stevens released his first album in 1967. He?s a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and his albums have sold millions. In 2020, he released Tea for the Tillerman², a re-imagining of his hit 1970 album Tea for the Tillerman. In the song ?Father & Son,? he sings a duet between the two title characters, doing both voices. But in the 2020 version, he approached this song in a kind of astonishing way?he recorded the part of the father, but for the part of the son, he used a live recording of himself from 1970, taken from a show he played at The Troubadour in Los Angeles. So the two parts are still both sung in his voice, but 50 years apart. In this episode, the 200th episode of Song Exploder, Yusuf / Cat Stevens tells the story of how he created, and then re-created ?Father & Son.?
For more, visit songexploder.net/yusuf-cat-stevens.
Common is a Grammy- and Oscar-winning rapper, actor, and activist from Chicago. He?s been making records since 1992, and in October, he released his thirteenth album, A Beautiful Revolution. In this episode, he breaks down how he made the song ?A Riot In My Mind,? along with a handful of collaborators, including Lenny Kravitz and a cameo from Chuck D.
Jewel is a singer-songwriter from Homer, Alaska, who?s received four Grammy nominations and sold over 30 million albums worldwide. Her debut album, Pieces of You, came out in 1995, and a 25th anniversary edition was released in November 2020. That album contains the hit song "You Were Meant for Me," but it turns out it wasn?t a runaway success?not at first. In this episode, Jewel traces the history of making ?You Were Meant For Me,? starting with the demo, and moving through all the different versions that were made along the way.
Billie Eilish started releasing music when she was 14 years old. Her debut album came out last year, when she was 17. It debuted at Number 1 on Billboard, went triple platinum, and won five Grammys. Billie made that record with her brother and creative partner, producer Finneas O?Connell, in their parents? house in Highland Park, Los Angeles.
While working on that album, they also started writing this song, ?Everything I Wanted,? which came out as a single in November 2019. It was Billie?s second top ten hit, and it went double platinum, too. In this episode, you?ll hear some of the original voice memos Billie and Finneas made while writing, and the two of them explain why the song was almost never finished.
This episode is a little different. It?s a re-issue of Phoebe Bridgers? Song Exploder episode from January 2019, along with a brand new segment where she and I talk about dealing with writer?s block.
Phoebe Bridgers is a singer-songwriter from Los Angeles. In September 2017, she released her debut album, Stranger in the Alps. One of the breakout songs from that album was ?Scott Street,? a song Phoebe co-wrote with her drummer, Marshall Vore. Coming up first in this episode, Phoebe and Marshall break down how that song went from an unfinished cassette recording, to an acoustic demo, and then finally to the album version.
And then, after that, after you hear "Scott Street" in its entirety, Phoebe and I talk about writer?s block: what causes it for her, and how?s she?s dealt with it. So stick around after the full song to hear that conversation.
Deftones are a Grammy-winning band from Sacramento who?ve sold over ten million albums. Their ninth album, Ohms, came out this year, on September 25th, 2020. In this episode, singer Chino Moreno breaks down how the title track came together, and how they literally went back to where things started in order to create it.
Rapper Killer Mike and rapper/producer El-P first met in 2011. They both had established rap careers, but they entered a new era when they started making music together as Run the Jewels in 2013. They?ve been nominated for a Grammy, and they released their fourth album, RTJ4, in June 2020. Like all of their albums, they made it available to download for free. In this episode, El-P and Killer Mike break down the song "JU$T," which features guest vocals from their frequent collaborator, Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine, and guest vocals from Pharrell Williams.